This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Gentian A Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Gen-tiana major lutea C. B. Gentiana lutea Linn. Gentian: a plant with an unbranched jointed stalk, and oblong acuminated ribbed leaves set in pairs at the joints upon broad pedicles: the flowers, which stand in clusters round the stalk in the bosoms of the upper leaves, are of a pale yellow colour, somewhat bell-shaped, deeply cut into five segments, followed by oblong cap-fules full of small seeds: the root is moderately long, slender, branched, brownish on the out-side, of a reddish yellow or gold colour within. It is perennial, a native of the mountainous parts of Germany, etc. from whence the shops are generally supplied with the dried roots.
Among the gentian brought to London some years ago, a root of a different kind was mixed:. the use of which occasioned violent disorders, and in some instances, as is said, proved fatal. This root is externally of a paler colour than gentian, and its longitudinal wrinkles siner and closer: on cutting the two roots, the difference is more remarkable, the poisonous root being white, without any degree of the yellow tincture which is deep in gentian; nor is its taste bitter, like that of gentian, but mucilaginous.
Gentian root is a strong flavourless bitter; in taste less exceptionable than most of the other common strong bitters, and hence among us most generally made use of. The flavour and aromatic warmth, wanting to render it grateful, and acceptable to the stomach, are supplied by additions. An ounce of the gentian root, with the same quantity of fresh lemon peel, and a dram and a half of dried orange peel, infused for an hour or two in three quarters of a pint of boiling water, make a very elegant bitter. The lemon peel is an excellent addition in the watery infusions, but the perish-ableness of its flavour excludes it from spirituous tinctures designed for keeping. The Edinburgh college have directed an addition of spirits to their bitter infusion, which is made of half an ounce of gentian root, one dram of dried orange peel, and half a dram of coriander seeds, infused in a quarter of a pint of proof spirit, and a pint of water. The bitter tinctures are commonly prepared, by macerating an ounce of the root, for some days in a pint of proof spirit, with four drams of dried orange peel and two of lester cardamom seeds; or in a pint and quarter of proof spirit, with the above quantity of orange peel, two drams of canella alba, and fifteen grains of cochineal. Wines and malt liquors are likewise impregnated with the same or similar materials, in different proportions: an ounce of the gentian root, the same quantity of fresh lemon peel, and two drams of long pepper, communicate, by maceration without heat, a grateful warmth and bitterness to a quart of mountain. The virtue of the root is extracted by all these men-itrua, as alfo by rectified spirit; not totally, however, by any, in the above proportions; and not in so great a degree by water as by spirit. The tincture in rectified spirit is of an orange yellow colour: infpiffated, it yields an intensely bitter extract, the spirit rising unflavoured. The watery infusions are of a dark brownish red; and leave, on being infpiffated, an extract, in larger quantity, and less bitter, than the other. These extracts are made into pills, by themselves, or with aromatic additions.
Infuf. gentian, comp. Ph. Land.
Infuf. amar. Ph. Ed.
Tinct. gentian, comp. Ph. Lond.
Tinctura amara, five Elixir sto-machic. Ph. Ed.
The German ephemerides mention a root brought from America by the Portugueze, under the name of Indian gentian; of a pale yel-lowish colour, jointed, marked with various knots and circles like ipecacoanha; of a penetrating aromatic bitterness, not ungrateful, though far more intense than the bitterest of the officinal bitter drugs. This root is greatly commended in obstinate intermittents, and many other disorders: a scruple is said to do more than repeated half drams of bark(a).